War Machine, Volume 9

Easily recognized by the large doughnut cooling rings around the barrel the Hotchkiss m le 1914 became the standard French heavy machine-gun of World W arl. Although heavy it was well made and generally reliable but the strip feed sometimes gave trouble. It fired an 8-mm (0.315-in) round. which it performed well enough though one feature did cause trouble. This was the ammunition feed the Hotchkiss using a method whereby the rounds were fed into the gun mounted on metal strips originally brass strips were used but these were later re­placed by steel strips These strips carried only 24 or 30 rounds which severely limited the amount of sus­tained fire that could be produced On the mle 1914 this was partly overcome by redesigning the strip system to give three-round strips linked together to form a 249-round 'belt'. Even in this form the strips were prone to damage and any dirt on them tended to cause jams. The feed mechanism was thus the weakest point in an otherwise reli­able and serviceable design. There were some variations on the basic design. Versions for use in for­tifications had a downwards 'V'- shaped muzzle attachment that was supposed to act as a flash hider and several types of tripod were in use during World War I including a mle 1897 mounting that had no provision for traverse or elevation. The Hotchkiss machine-guns were used mainly by the French army dur­ing World War 1 but in 1917 large numbers were overhanded to the American Expeditionary Force when it arrived in France The Americans continued to use them until the war ended. Specification Mitrailleuse Hotchkiss mle 1914 Calibre: 8 mm (0.315 in) Lengths: overall 127 m (50 in) barrel 775 mm (30.51 in) Weight: gun 23.6 kg (52.0 lb) Muzzle velocity: 725 m (2379 ft)per second Rate of fire: (cyclic) 400-600 rpm Feed: 24- or 30-round strip or 249- round strip in 3-round links FRANCE Chauchat Officially known as the Fusil- Mitrailleur mle 1916 the Chauchat or CSRG is one of the more unpleasant weapon production stories of World War I. It was intended as alight machine-gun and was created by a commission of designers in 1914 the result being along and awkward weapon using a mechanism known as ‘long recoil' in which the barrel and breech block moved to the rear after firing the barrel then being allowed to move forward while the bolt is held and released later to feed the next round. This mechanism works but is rather complicated and the movement inside the gun makes aiming difficult. The Chauchat was apparently in­tended for ease of manufacture but when the design was rushed into pro­duction in 1915 its manufacture was hived out to a large number of firms, some of whom had virtually no weapon-manufacturing experience. The result was a horror for many manufacturers used the Chauchat simply as a means of making maximum profit and soused cheap and unsuit­able materials that either outwore quickly or broke inaction. Even when the materials were suitable the service versions of the Chauchat were still bad: the weapon handled badly and tended to jam at the slightest excuse. The half-moon magazine under the body did little to make the weapon easier to carry and the light bipod was so flimsy that it bent very easily. The French soldiers hated the weapon, many later proclaiming that the manu­facturers' greed for profits had caused the deaths of many French soldiers as they no doubt had. Unfortunately the manufacturers were not alone in their search for weapon production profits When the Americans entered the war some French politicians prevailed upon the US Army to adopt the Chauchat and the unsuspecting Americans agreed. They accepted over 16000 Chauchats and a further 19000 were ordered of aversion chambered for the American I I Below: A French soldier fully attired in his horizon bleu uniform and greatcoat holds his Chauchat in the prescribed drill book manner for use in the assault. The Fusil-M itrailleur m le 1915 ‘Cor hauchat was one of the worst machine-guns ever built and was reviled by the soldiers who had to use it inaction. 62-mm 7 3-in) (0 cartridge this model had a vertical box magazine instead of the French half-moon magazine, Neither of these versions proved to be any better in American hands than they were in French hands. The Amer­icans often simply cleared jams by throwing the jammed weapon away and taking up a rifle especially when the rechambered weapons reached their ranks. The American cartridge was more powerful than the French 8-mm (0.315-in) round and made the gun components breakeven more rapidly. In the end existing production con­tracts were allowed to run their course but the resultant weapons were usually stockpiled to be dragged out and later dumped upon unsuspect­ing post-war markets In France some parliamentary investigations were made into the Chauchat affair in an attempt to determine exactly how the production contracts were placed and where the profits ended but by then so many parliamentarians and indus­trialists were involved that the whole affair gradually fizzled out. Most references state that the Chauchat in all its forms was one of the worst machine-guns of World War I in all aspects. From basic design to manufacture and the materials used it was a disaster but what now appears worse is the fact that the whole prog­ ramme was not controlled at all. The result was that many soldiers suffered from having to use the weapon while others pocketed the profits their greed had generated Specification Chauchat Calibre:8 mm (0.315 in) Lengths: gun 1.143 m (45.0 in) barrel 470 mm (18.5 in) Weight: 9.2 kg (203 lb) Muzzle velocity: 700 m (2297 ft)per second Rate of fire: 250-300 rpm Feed: 20-round curved box magazine
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